By Bianca Fortis
Bob Turner is hoping he and his family will be celebrating Christmas in their home this year instead of the Kew Gardens house they have been renting for the last year.
The former U.S. congressman, along with many other Breezy Point residents, lost his home to the wrath of Hurricane Sandy.
Turner’s home was leveled in a massive blaze that started after rising seawater came into contact with electrical systems. According to the FDNY, 126 homes burned down and 22 were damaged by fire in the Rockaway enclave. Many others suffered major flooding.
Turner said he applied for a building permit soon after the storm. His home has been under construction for two months and will be completed soon.
“Some people were delayed for six or eight months before they did anything,” he said. “I don’t know why — if it was shock or what. But it all seems to be coming together now.”
The beachfront community was devastated by the storm, but Turner said there are elements of the neighborhood that will never change.
“We have the same friends and neighbors and the same community spirit,” he said. “It is a very good community for helping one another. It’s very friendly, people know one another.”
While the rebuilding process in Breezy Point has been slow, the speed has picked up recently.
Turner said there are about two dozen houses in the burn zone that are in same stage of the rebuilding process.
He said local builders, including the Rockaway Beach Blvd. Construction Co., the construction firm behind Arverne by the Sea, are building many of the new Breezy Point homes.
A number of the homes are modular — or prefabricated — which are delivered in pieces, put into place by cranes and then attached.
Turner said the permitting process used to take 15 months, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city Department of Buildings have been working to expedite the process to four or five weeks.
The former congressman said he expects 350 homes to be restored by next summer.
Turner said Sandy was a tough blow for the community, but there is a shared determination to rebuild.
“Everyone has their own story, their own circumstances,” he said. “Some people have different insurance, some homes were destroyed by the fire and others by the storm. People have different means — it’s a very diverse community economically. But even with all the different stories, there is a common purpose to get back to normal.”
Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.